Record AG Society funding to help little penguins
ONE OF THE AG Society’s most successful fundraisers to date will help scientists protect the world’s smallest penguin.
Growing to a height of only 43cm, little penguins once inhabited a large range along Australia’s mainland coast and nearby islands. But a number of threats – including habitat destruction, feral animal attacks, pollution and a deteriorating food supply – have led to a dramatic decline in their numbers.
The $58,000 raised by the AGS will go to projects assisting colonies in Manly in Sydney, Penguin Island in Western Australia, Wedge Island in Tasmania’s south-east, Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Phillip Island in Victoria.
Dr Belinda Cannell, a biologist at Murdoch University, Perth, is studying the colony at Penguin Island, near Fremantle. It is home to Australia’s westernmost colony of little penguins, and the northernmost colony in WA.
“These penguins have been identified as having the highest conservation value [in Australia] but are also the most threatened,” Belinda says.
With the help of the AG Society, Belinda hopes to understand the ability of little penguin populations to survive impacts associated with climate change and coastal use.
Recent genetic work has also shown that this colony and others in the Perth region are genetically distinct, raising the possibility that they may be a subspecies.
Funds will also go to researcher Sandra Vogel from the University of New South Wales, who is working on a genetic study of little penguins in NSW and WA; the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife for its work with penguin populations on Kangaroo Island and the only mainland colony found in Sydney Harbour; and Phillip Island’s Penguin Foundation, which will also use funds to help support the 32,000 little penguins that nest there.